Cumbria is a large county in North West England and contains the Lake District and Lake District National Park. It is bounded to the north by the Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, to the west by the Irish Sea, to the south by Lancashire, to the south east by North Yorkshire, and to the east by County Durham and Northumberland. Cumbria is very mountainous containing every peak in England over 3,000ft above sea level with Scafell Pike being England’s highest mountain at 978 m (3,209ft). Cumbria is also one of England’s most outstanding areas of natural beauty attracting mountain climbers, hikers and walkers, cyclists, runners and tourists and holds a source of inspiration for artists, writers and musicians. Cumbria consists of six districts Eden, Carlisle, Allerdale, Copeland, South Lakeland and Barrow-in-Furness.
The Lake District is an area with stunning scenery located within in the County of Cumbria. Commonly known as The Lakes or Lakeland it was granted National Park status on 9th May 1951 less than a month after the first UK designated National Park, The Peak District. It is the largest of thirteen National Parks in England and Wales and the largest in the UK after the Cairngorms. The Lake District National Park itself covers an area of 885 square miles and stretches 30 miles from Ravenglass in the west to Shap in the east and 35 miles from Caldbeck in the north to Lindale in the south. Crammed with so much natural beauty the Lakes attract visitors, tourists and holiday makers from all over the world. As the name suggests there are many lakes each with their own uniqueness, amenities and activities such as lakeside walks, sailing, waterskiing, boat trips and ferries. All of the lakes except Bassenthwaite Lake are named by water, tarn or mere and are surrounded by stunning scenery and magnificent fells. There are some wonderful towns to explore such as Keswick, Windermere, Ambleside, Kendal, Hawkshead, Grasmere and Cockermouth all with a splendid mixture of shops, cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants. There are also many museums, theatres, historic homes, gardens and many easy walks for the not so energetic visitor wishing not to climb the fells. William Wordsworth the famous British poet was born in Cockermouth and later lived in Grasmere where he wrote some of his best works before moving to Rydal Mount near Ambleside for his last 37 years. Both places are open to visitors and so is Brantwood home to John Ruskin until his death. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey and Thomas de Quincey all followed Wordsworth to the Lake District. Arthur Ransome, author of Swallows and Amazons, also grew to love the lakes and settled in the Winster Valley near Windermere. The painters Thomas Gainsborough, JMW Turner and John Constable were early visitors to the lakes but it was John Ruskin who settled here at Brantwood on the shore of Coniston Water. Farming and especially sheep farming has been historically and still is the main industry of the Lake District. The tough Herdwick breed with their stocky build and distinctive grey coat are especially hardy for the Lakeland fells and its weather. Sheep farming has probably been here since Viking times and is an important factor both to the economy of the lakes as well as in preserving the stunning landscape which attracts visitors and hence income to the region. Walking is a big attraction in the Lake District whether strolling around the low lying lakes or climbing up into the mountainous fells whichever is undertaken the scenery is magnificent. Alfred Wainwright’s famous hand written book, The Pictorial Guide to the Lake District, published in 1955 is a collection of seven books each illustrated with his unique style and charm of the 214 fells inspiring many visitors and tourists from all over the world.
Keswick is a market town in the Lake District in the county of Cumbria and lies within the Lake District National Park. Derwent Water is about 3 miles long by 1 mile wide and sits on the south edge of Keswick town and is fed and drained by the River Derwent. The river also connects Derwent Water to Bassenthwaite Lake which is north of Keswick. There are several islands in Derwent Water the largest being Derwent Island on which stands the inhabited 18th century Derwent Island House. The house is a tenanted National Trust property open to the public on five days each year. Lords Island was also home to a grand looking house and a drawbridge but in the late 18th century the house fell into disrepair and only the foundations remain now. The stone from the house was used to build Moot Hall in 1813. Moot Hall in the centre of Keswick was once the town hall but is now a tourist information centre and it is here in the square where the market is held every Saturday. During the 16th century Keswick was home to copper and lead mining on a small scale and the town was also the source of the world’s first graphite pencils. The pencil industry continued in the town until 2008 when it then moved to Workington. The Cumberland Pencil Museum and the Mining Museum are both close to the centre and are excellent places to visit on rainy days. Keswick is now mainly tourist orientated due to the many thousands of tourists visiting every year and the majority of side streets are abundant with B&B’s.
St John’s in the Vale is a glacial valley in the northern part of the Lake District surrounded by some of the most striking and most popular of the Lakeland fells. The valley runs south to north set between the rocky flanks of Clough Head to the east and High Rigg and Lowrigg to the west. The southern end is a narrow pass between High Rigg and Great Dodd near Legburthwaite while the northern end widens to meet the valley of the River Greta near Threlkeld where the view north is dominated by the fells Blencathra and Skiddaw. St John’s Beck which flows northwards along its floor is the primary route of outflow from Thirlmere reservoir to the south. The valley is home to a number of farms, small villages and hamlets, several disused quarry and mine works and the Threlkeld Quarry and Mining Museum.
Low Rigg is a small hill at a height of 277 metres (908.8 feet) standing just slightly north of its larger neighbour High Rigg. Although not very high Low Rigg’s summit provides wonderful views of the surrounding area and situated on its northern side is Tewet Tarn.
Castlerigg Stone Circle situated about 1.5 miles south east of Keswick is a famous monument standing on a superb natural plateau which provides an outstanding all round view of the surrounding fells and also some of the highest peaks such as Blencathra, Skiddaw, Grasmoor and Helvellyn. The circle is one of Britain’s earliest stone circles dating back to the Neolithic period 4000 to 5000 years ago. It is made up of 38 free standing stones some up to 3 metres (10 feet) high. It may have been used as a trading post, meeting place for social gatherings, a site for religious ceremonies and rituals or an astronomical observatory with the stones being aligned to the sun, moon and stars. The entrance seems to line up with the midwinter sunset. Castlerigg Stone Circle was one of the first sites to be covered under the Ancient Monuments Protection Act in 1888 but has been officially protected since 1833. The circle was acquired by the National Trust in 1913. It is the most visited circle in Cumbria managed by both the National Trust and English Heritage. Admission to the circle and the limited parking is free.
With Castlerigg Stone Circle on our right we head forwards along the tarmac road past the Keswick Climbing Wall Centre. At the end of the buildings we turn right following the public footpath sign over the field to the bridge. We cross the bridge and head forwards bearing right at the t-junction. After a short way we turn right at the next t-junction sign posted St John’s in the Vale. We follow the road for a short way and turn right at the public footpath sign into a field. We head uphill following the wall on the far side of the field. At the end of the field we go through the gap bearing right following the wall on the right. At the sign post we bear left and head forwards towards Tewet Tarn. We go through the gate, the tarn on our right, and head forwards slightly uphill then bear right slightly downhill to go through a gate. We now follow the path to the dip just to the right of the hill in front. We cross over a stile and keep following the path towards the buildings and a church. We cross over the stile and before we turn right down the tarmac track we take a look at the church. We follow the tarmac track with the wall on our right through a gate. We head forwards downhill and when the track bears left we keep heading forwards to go through the gate. We head forwards down the fields crossing over a little foot bridge to a sign post and track where we turn right. We follow the track then go through the gate at a wall corner and keep heading forwards until we meet the road. We turn right for a short way then turn right at the sign post, Castlerigg Stone Circle. We head forwards and after crossing over a cattle grid we turn left slightly uphill. We go through a gate and head forwards to go through another gate at the side of some buildings. We keep heading forwards through the fields and gates until we reach the tarmac road we started on. We now turn left to visit Castlerigg Stone Circle.
This is an easy walk on fairly good paths and tracks through fields and a short section of minor road. There are some gentle inclines and declines.
Elevation: approx lowest point 148.5m (487ft) approx highest point 255.40m (838ft).
Distance and Start Point
Approx 4.2 miles allow 2 hours using OS Explorer Map OL4, The English Lakes North Western area.
Start Point: Car park at Castlerigg Stone Circle.
St John’s in the Vale, east of Keswick in the Lake District, Cumbria.
Directions and Parking
From the A66 take the A591 to Keswick. Just before the T-junction take the minor road on the left to Castlerigg Stone Circle. Free lay-by parking at side of road.
Parking: Free lay-by parking at Castlerigg Stone Circle.
Toilets and Refreshments
There are no public toilets or refreshments. The nearest facilities are in Keswick with plenty of shops, cafes, pubs, bakeries and take-away.